Why jackpot machines are so addictive

Our MPs are right to worry about people being addicted to slot or jackpot machines (Counsellors, MPs call for tighter rules on jackpot operations; April 27).

According to Dr Charles Livingstone from Monash University's School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, slot machines are designed to get players hooked.

He said the lure of potential combinations, near misses and promises of big payouts causes the body to release dopamine, "similar to the pattern occasioned by a cocaine addiction".

Gamblers are addicted because they see jackpot machines as a light form of gambling with low stakes.

They get hooked because play is solitary, rapid and without interruptions, unlike, say, card games where one has to wait for the other players.

It does not help that there are new kinds of machines, such as multi-line slot machines, to entice people to gamble.

Perhaps the authorities can consider limiting the amount a player can spend for each spin and introduce mechanisms to allow gamblers to set limits on their losses.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Why jackpot machines are so addictive'. Print Edition | Subscribe